Diggerland USA Amusement Park Opens

Wed June 18, 2014 - National Edition

WEST BERLIN, N.J. (AP) — Diggerland USA – the first construction-themed amusment park in North America – has opened to the public.

The owners of Diggerland USA outside Philadelphia say it’s the first theme park of its kind in the U.S., though many of its plans are based on four similar parks in the United Kingdom. Unlike a more intense heavy equipment playground in Las Vegas called Dig This, Diggerland caters to both kids and adults.

Visitors who are at least 4 feet tall can take a turn driving a backhoe around a course with the help of a staff member or they can dig in sand piles with a 7-ton excavator.

Besides letting customers dig, the park also has the Spin Dizzy, a ride where passengers can spin at high speed strapped into the bucket of a specially designed earth-mover or go around more slowly in a digger-themed carousel.

The machines are the real thing, not miniatures or replicas. But they are modified to limit their functionality — and danger.

The machines used for digging are not able to be driven. Those that can be driven have safeguards so they won’t go too fast. And park employees can remotely shut down the machines.

The New Jersey park is owned by Ilya Girlya and his family, who also run a nearby water park. Full-day tickets are $35 for the park and it does not cost extra to go on any individual rides.

At a preview event earlier in the month, the Spin Dizzy zipped in quick circles; its starts and stops were as jerky as earth-moving equipment is.

Unlike most spinning amusement rides, the operator also spins in circles. Park marketing director Chris Peters said that adds a requirement for the job: The workers who do it can’t get woozy from spinning in circles.

Lisa Rupertus, from Pine Hill, took her 3-year-old son Jace on the Dig-Around, for a spin on the carousel. Jace, whose T-shirt said "I make dirt look good," is perhaps at the target age for excavation infatuation.

"He’s very excited," Lisa Rupertus said, pointing to her other sons. "So is my 13-year-old and my 11-year-old."

Other attractions include standard carnival games reimagined, including a duck pond and a bowling game using a small excavator.